A friend and I are flying into Brussels in March 2018. Our plan is to take a train to Brugge spend three nights there and then return to Brussels for four nights. When discussing our plans with some very travel savvy friends who were just there we are reconsidering our stay in Brussels. They said they were very afraid for most of the visit due to terror cell activity and just didn't feel safe. Has anyone had recent experience there and any thoughts or advice will be welcome.
There are a zillion questions like this asked on this forum all the time. The correct answer is nowhere is completely safe, and the most dangerous part of your trip, statistically, is driving to the airport. (Driving in general puts you at far greater risk than any other common day-to-day activity, unless your day-to-day activities include hang-gliding or something of that sort.)
If you're going to worry enough to prevent you from enjoying your trip, then don't go. It's too much trouble and too much money to spend if you are going to be filled with anxiety the entire time.
That said, I was in Brussels in May of 2016, about 6 weeks after the airport bombing. It felt safe to me. There were a lot of armed soldiers patrolling all the areas I visited.
Your friends don't sound as travel savvy as you suggest. I'm not saying there's no risk of terrorist activity in the places you might want to travel to, just that statistically the likelihood of your being killed or injured or even of having your travel disrupted by such activity is minimal.
We were in Brussels last November. Felt safe to us. There was more security in the airport post the bombing. We had to go through security between the train and getting in the airport, then again to get to the gates as usual. There were a lot of people in the Grand Place at night as they were doing a Christmas light show every hour and we saw police, but it didn't seem too different from any large crowd type event in any large city. There were some migrant/homeless on the streets but they weren't a threat, mostly they were hungry. It mostly just felt normal in the middle of Brussels. But if you are concerned you will be nervous the whole time you need to do what's right for you.
They said they were very afraid for most of the visit due to terror cell activity and just didn't feel safe.
Travel savvy? Your friends sound somewhat sheltered, like someone who has been watching and over estimating what they see and hear on TV. I've been there 4 times and was there in July and did not feel unsafe. But I grew up in Chicago a place that has had a lot more homicide and shootings than Brussels this year and last year. Look it up. Are they scared to come here too? You have to watch anywhere you go in any big city.
And I even managed to get some rare Belgian Beer back home in my checked luggage
Thank you this has been very helpful!
There is nothing like having friends, “travel savvy” or not, deflate your pleasure in your travel plans. What “terror cell activity” were they referring to and how did they hear about it? I suggest that you continue with your March plans and ignore the naysayers.
I grew up in America and live in Brussels. With the exception of, say, the Gare du Midi and crowded transport (where you keep an eye on your bags), I feel far safer than in America. I cannot imagine what terror cell activity your friends came across. The police and soldiers here do a good job and life is pretty easy-going. Of course there are better and worse areas, and you keep your wits about you, but in general there are far fewer armed people here than in America, far fewer deaths, and as someone else on this forum has pointed out, the most dangerous thing, at home or abroad, is generally driving!
Enjoy the trip!
THank you all so much for your encouragement. We will indeed proceed with our trip to Brussels! Let the planning begin. For me it's half the fun!
Oh, good, judy! Carry on. (not a reference to luggage)
I would totally discount people who claim themselves to be "very travel savvy" when such advice is given. That presupposes they know more about Europe as a whole than I do. I think not.
judy, are you aware that there are at least three "active shooter" incidents in the United States in an average WEEK? And that there are over 30,000 auto accident deaths in the US each year? I don't know the exact number, but I recently learned that over 100 PEDESTRIANS are killed by cars in New York City each year. What are your friends worried about?
Oh my gosh!! Please don't cancel your plans. We took the Holland/Belgium tour in April 2016 right after the Brussels bombing. Our tour was full, but then some people cancelled. We had 18 on our tour. Our flight was to go into Brussels and out of Amsterdam, but United cancelled our brussels flight but changed our flight in and out of Amsterdam. Then we had to take the Thayls train to Brussels because we were staying three nights in Brussels before we headed to Ghent. At The time I was trying to find hotels in Brussels, they were having their annual seafood conference and most hotels were full. We found one near the Midi train station.... Ustel Floris. Accordingly to info I found out, it really was not in the best of location, but we felt TOTALLY SAFE. It was a nice hotel/accommodations, nice restaurant we ate at for arrival dinner across the street. We NEVER felt unsafe while we were there.
I would go back in a heart beat! I loved Brussel and the RS tour. It was one of the best ones we have been one.
I do not want to get political, but I do have a very strong opinion of Brussels due to a personal experience in 2015. I was traveling with another tour company. We arrived in the evening at a hotel about 2 miles from the Grand Place during Christmas season. Both my daughter and I had become friendly with a mother-daughter Muslim couple on the tour. They were very progressive, and not wear the head scarves.
We entered a residential area about a mile from the main train station and were followed and verbally attacked by a group of about 10 Muslim men to the point that we started running from them.
The 2 women were scared to point that they were both crying .
My advice is to not walk from the main train station to the Grand Place at night.
That being said, I am returning to Belgium this coming May, but I will be more careful, and will not visit Brussels.
"Keep on Traveling", did not protect me and my daughter from our worst experience in 7 straight years of visiting europe.
I attended graduate school in Brussels in the late 1990s. I lived a few blocks from the Place de La Bourse. I have been revisiting this intriguing city for twenty years. In my experience, daytime Brussels is safe. At night, however, Brussels can be a very dangerous place. This should not discourage your travel to this fascinating city, but I would strongly suggest taking taxis & walking with a group of friends if you are out after dark.
The question is Brussles safe is better than the question, is Europe safe. Still better would be, should I take any precautions in the following areas; "_______". It's like saying the US is more dangerous than "______". No one has ever been murdered in my zip code or any zip code between my house and the place I work. People jave been murderef in my favorite part of Paris. On the other hand there are parts of my home town I dont feel totally safe and i wouldnt enter at night without a gun. "Generally Speaking" just doesn't always work except in a very few places.
At night, however, Brussels can be a very dangerous place.
I think this is a very general statement, maybe too general. I'm sure there are places, as in any big city anywhere in the world, that can be unsavory and maybe actually unsafe at night. But, in general I found Brussels to be perfectly safe quite late into the evening. I did not wander alone in the middle of the night so can't speak to that. I was there 4 years ago and, as a solo single woman, walked alone from both the Central and Gare du Midi train stations to my hotel which was about 1/2 way between the two. The area around Midi was a bit sketchy and I wouldn't hang out there but I did not feel threatened or unsafe walking from to or from there.
Maybe the areas where Matthew spent his time are not near the main tourist areas, and maybe things have changed since the '90's, but for a tourist staying in the central areas and not wandering around deserted areas after midnight, it's quite safe.
Nancy, you could be absolutely correct, and I woyld suspect you are. The only caveat would be that "feeling safe" is not synonymous with "being safe".
Here is what the State Department thinks: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Belgium.html Good to know, but wouldnt keep me a way .......... necessarily
James, that State Dept alert does not specify Brussels and terrorism can happen anywhere in Europe, not just Belgium. The protest alert is for the March For Our Lives protests going on today all over the world, most likely will be totally peaceful. Not worth even paying attention to - read it and move on, take normal precautions you would take anywhere, anytime.
Nancy, I'm not trying to read anything into it one way or the other. Just thought someone might find it useful. Belgium is a 2 and my trip next month will take me to a 3. Oddly, Uzbekistan is a 1! You gotta love it.